First Things First rolled out to KZN students

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pretoria – Government has rolled out the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) First Things First HIV/TB/STIs and general health and wellness programme for students in KwaZulu-Natal.

Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana launched the programme at Thekwini College’s Melbourne Campus, in Durban, on Monday.

This was the first activation of First Things First in the province this year.

The initiative, which aims to prevent HIV, TB and STI infections and provide a mechanism for treatment for those who are found to be infected, will not only benefit close to 10000 students who attend the college but also their families and the broader community.

Overall, the programme seeks to reach all provinces and promote HIV testing to about two million students across 429 campuses and 73 institutions of higher education and training.

The Deputy Minister said “healthy and productive graduates are one of the cornerstones of a healthy economy”.

“Universities and colleges provide the ideal environment within which to improve knowledge about HIV, other STIs and TB and to promote testing and other services to protect and care for young people,” he said when interacting with students.”

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, director of HEAIDS, said last year, the First Things First programme helped over 174 000 young people learn their HIV status and they were able to use this as a stepping stone for protecting their health.

They were also screened for STIs and TB and received treatment if needed.

"… I assure you that in the coming months, the First Things First campaign will try to reach more young men and women in our universities and colleges through provision of health education and services to look after them,” said Ahluwalia.

HEAIDS ensures that information and access to products such as condoms and services for testing, prevention and treatment are available within the higher education and training sector.

“A comprehensive package of health services that also includes contraception, the screening for cancer and other lifestyle diseases will be made available to students.

“Being part of campus life and building skills and knowledge enable young people to contribute to South Africa’s progress and success. It also nurtures a protective and safer environment,” concluded Dr Ahluwalia.

HIV statistics

According to the department, over half of the world’s young population infected with HIV lives in Eastern and Southern Africa.

KwaZulu-Natal has the highest new HIV infection rate of the nine provinces in South Africa, and the highest overall prevalence of infection (16.9%).

In KwaZulu-Natal, 12% of youth in the 15-24 age group are HIV-positive, followed by Mpumalanga (10%) as the second highest, while Limpopo’s youth in the same age bracket have the lowest prevalence (3.1%), according to the SA National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey, 2012.

“Worryingly, the same most-at-risk group has also been decreasing the use of condoms – which increases the risk of HIV infection.

“Efforts to promote HIV awareness and health-seeking behaviours in the province come at a time when Durban and South Africa get ready to host the 21st International AIDS Conference, AIDS 2016, which takes place in Durban 18-22 July 2016,” said the department. – SAnews.gov.za

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